Why I’m Not a Minimalist

Why I'm Not a Minimalist

Photo credit: Feans

I once dated a guy who was a minimalist. His apartment had some basic furnishings, bare walls, a shelf of some books and DVDs, and not much else. (Actually, looking back I’m realizing that none of my boyfriends have owned a lot of stuff, which might say something psychologically interesting about me.) The first time he came to my apartment, the first words out of his mouth were, “You have a lot of stuff!”

This was after I had already begun consciously not accumulating new stuff, so needless to say I was rather affronted. After further thought, though, I decided that having a lot of stuff isn’t inherently something to be ashamed of.

Minimalism is a buzzword these days, and as a theory it has a lot of merit. In practice, though, most people aren’t starting from zero, so attaining lofty minimalist benchmarks (like having a super-small wardrobe) is unrealistic. If you’ve already accumulated a lot of possessions, to purge all those items just so you can be “minimal” epitomizes a wastefulness that to me seems at odds with the entire philosophy of minimalism.

The main reason I’m not a minimalist is the realization that just because it’s not my problem anymore doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. Minimalism espouses the mental and emotional benefits of living with less. I agree that removing clutter and excess can have very positive effects… on the person losing the clutter. However, you can’t ignore the fact that whatever you get rid of continues to exist, whether in a thrift store, a secondhand market in a developing country, or a landfill. (There’s a good chance your stuff will travel through all three.)

Mindless purging can be just as harmful as mindless accumulation, as it enables further consumption and injects more items into the waste stream. Finding someone who wants what you don’t is a more sustainable solution than throwing all of your unwanted items in a box for someone else to deal with.

Honestly, that approach takes more time and effort, which is another reason I still have some things I don’t really need or want anymore. But I’m fine with that, because I know they’re causing me less of a problem than they might cause somewhere else.

What’s your take on minimalism? Do you also accidentally date only minimalists?


  1. I LOVE this post. You have hit the nail on the head! This is exactly what has made me feel so uncomfortable about many minimalist blogs. I’ve been drawn to minimising and downsizing lately. When you have a toddler you soon become sick of tidying away stuff that he has emptied out of cupboards and draws. When you’ve picked it up several times you begin to wonder whether it is something you can live without. So I have been slowly decluttering and downsizing. I was never materialistic, so I don’t have loads to get through. i tend to keep things because I am frugal and try to be sustainable. I think it is so important to minimise in a sustainable way. I left one minimalism group because I was chastised for suggesting that a coat could be mended instead of thrown out. I make sure that any donated clothes are mended first. Even to the point that I spent $60 for a cobbler to resole a pair of shoes before I donated them to a thrift store. I read my books and then give them to friends who will enjoy them and pass them on. I tear up old sheets and crochet them into toy baskets. I cut up old towels and make them into dishcloths. Minimalism for me is not bare walls and empty rooms. It is only owning what you use, and putting to good use the resources you have. That may mean passing on some stuff to others. But for the most part it should mean not buying things and using what you already have

  2. You bring up a good point about the minimalist trend! I wouldn’t consider myself a minimalist, rather a person who hates clutter. Nate, too, though I’m more of the enforcer. I try to get rid of things on Craigslist or my garage sale Facebook group first before I try any other method because like you said, your stuff really needs to be in the hands of someone who wants it. Having a younger sister is also a good solution for clothes purging. Haha.

    A big part of it is just not buying things all the time, so at least you’re halfway there.

  3. I totally agree, though I think there must be some people who are doing minimalism more conscientiously and not just purging all the stuff that makes them un-minimalist. It’s interesting, too, the ways aesthetic and practical minimalism are colliding and turning into the same thing.

  4. this is so great! I’m decluttering like CRAZY but this is due to years of overconsumption. I hope to have a home and family where no one has to become a ‘minimalist’ because we are just used to having the things we need and caring for them. Also…have you noticed how so many stores that sell to “minimalists” are kind of just selling nick nacks? Just because its made of wood and you paid a crapload of money for it doesn’t mean it’s not junk!

  5. You made an excellent point about giving your items to someone who will use them rather than tossing them out. I have recently downsized because of a move, but I tried to be as conscious as I could about where I sold or donated items and asked friends if they wanted anything before I threw it out. Of course, I don’t believe in over-consumption either, but where you chose to send stuff when you get rid of it as just as important to consider.

  6. Some good points in this post! I think the way to do it is to wave your minimalist flag high and proud, so that you are guilted or forced into accepting items you don’t want. I think that if you think of yourself as a minimalist, the consumption side of the equation will drop. However, I have pondered the conflict between minimalism, and having non-disposable items around, like old t-shirts for rags, etc.

    • Julia

      That’s a good strategy to avoid having unwanted stuff schlepped upon you! I could see myself labeling myself a minimalist in that kind of situation.

  7. Susan Logan

    Your comment about boyfriends who are minimalists reminds me of my ex-husband. He had very few clothes and possessions. I see this now as caused by what he held dear: buying cigarettes, caffeine and alcohol. His minimalism was fueled by bad habits and addictions. I’m glad I have the freedom to enjoy my possessions.

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